Elizabeth Prats|Apr 15, 2015

Decades ago, the Boomer generation took to the food industry like Godzilla took to Tokyo. Fast food chains like McDonald’s thrived and the microwavable burrito proved the most innovative thing since sliced bread (seriously, pre-sliced bread didn’t exist until the 1920s).

Now, these companies must adapt to the new generation – millennials.

We consistently hear the term “millennials” thrown around. What TIME has dubbed the “me, me, me generation.” Similar to King Kong duking it out with Godzilla for the radioactive dinosaur’s turf in the 1962 film. Boomers are losing their ground as millennials become the dominant generation with brands striving to keep up (ahem, McDonald’s / KFC). More than 40 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2020.

For better or worse we’re here to stay. Growing up as the technologically savvy generation, AOL dial tones are a thing of the past. They like things fast, sure, but millennials’ wants vary. There is a health conscious mentality to an extent. The Gibbs-rbb Conscious Consumer White Paper hashes out some of the differences between gen-X and gen-Y when it comes to food and brand loyalty.

According the white paper, the average Americans are willing to spend more on safe and sustainably produced food. Millennials? They are willing to spend $63.90 more per week.

Millennials are the generation that values experiences. Oftentimes considered the foodies of today. Which according to a new report from the research firm Technomic, 42% of millennials say they visit “upscale casual-dining restaurants” at least once a month, but even “convenience stores accounted for 11.1% of millennial food and beverage stops in 2014, compared to 7.7% in 2006. By comparison, fast-casual accounted for 6.1% in 2014 vs. 3.1% in 2006,” according NPD’ss annual “Eating Patterns in America” study.

With all these differing views, what can a food chain brand really do to appeal to this generation, a generation everyone is still learning about? When it all boils down to it – transparency is key. Taking a hard look at practices from the supply chain level to the way the food is presented on-site.

I have found that brand loyalty may not be high on the list for millennials, but believe that after a millennial has sampled many brands they will eventually become brand loyal. That’s what it is about. Time. This is a generation that expects things quickly, but what we really need from brands is time. Time to establish ourselves, our beliefs – time to sample them all. Why? Because we’re the first generation that can. We don’t have kids, or mortgages. Heck, some are living at home rent free. So why not try the world on for size? All brands have to do is show us why we should care.

Then we might just listen.


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